Stirrings of a Nervous Breakdown…I mean Spiritual Awakening?!

I intended to write about feminism – a list of why we need a new movement and a direct response to those that have decided that feminism is no longer needed. Yet, this is what came out when I sat down to write.

It is revolutionary and terrifying to release the control and movement of your breath into another’s control. At least for someone that likes to be in control, which of course, isn’t me.

About a month ago, I was in the middle of my 2nd Yoga Teacher Training Intensive at Circle Yoga Shala that was focused on Pranayama (Breathing Techniques). I climbed the hills of Hwy 7 to the shala with a hybrid of emotions not yet knowing these would be forced to the surface in a room full of individuals due to focusing my attention on breath alone (under the guidance of my teacher, Matt).

On the 3rd day, we began the practice of Kapalabhati – “Skull shining breath.” (Get your jokes out now, Amanda).  In the middle of practice, I felt my chest tighten, my jaw clench, and tears flood down my face.  Completely perplexed by what was going on, I tried to make myself as small as possible in the room, not garnering attention from anyone. I have always been the “I don’t cry in front of other people” person. Also, I loathe being the center of attention which is obvious by the deep shade of beet red that rises in my face.  Yet, here I was sitting in what felt like a crowded room searching my head rather than my heart for why on earth I couldn’t gather myself and stop. I didn’t want to sit through this and show what I perceived to be a weakness. For some reason, I stayed put. I didn’t rush out the door and head off that mountain though I entertained that thought for about 15 minutes.  My tears slowed but I knew the minute we circled up to talk about our experience they would return. All Matt had to say was “Why the drop in spirit?” and here they came.  What I struggled the most with was my inability to pinpoint the cause of this downpour.  I sat there thinking is this what a nervous breakdown is? Have I completely lost my mind? Graciously, Matt moved to the next person.  I was really hoping for a break, but after everyone shared we went back to practice. And here they came again, but rather than forcing the tears and the emotions to go back to a tightly closed bottle, I sat there and let them come. I could not do the practice that was being taught, but I did stay with my breath body.  The practice came to a close and I wiped my face as we circled up. Holly (my teacher too) came in and noticed my drained face. She had me try and relate what was happening.  She observed that even in that moment I was barely breathing, so her only instruction was to breath in my stomach.  The rest of the day went on with a screaming headache but with kind love from my teachers and all the other students.

That night, upon Holly’s invitation, we sat down and discussed my experience.  I cannot write everything I learned from her that night; this would go on and on. What I am reminded right now, is the understanding and full belief that the trauma you experience in life is reflected in your body and your breath. If you spent much of your life in survival mode, this is reflected in your posture and where you breathe.  At the moment, I no longer need to be in survival mode. My task is to learn how to reside in peace and allow the wounds that have healed to be only a part of me. All the stories that have molded me into who I am today do make up my identity, but not all of it.  It is difficult to relay in words everything that was revealed to me.

The next morning, I woke up with a new sense of self-confidence. By showing my softer side to those around me and even to myself, I became more open. The guilt of previous mistakes, decisions, slowly began to drop off and I was ok with “mistakes” again. The perfection I set was the isolating force that kept me from fully diving into humanity. As well as my normal doomsday perspective of “expect the worst and be surprised with the best” was replaced with the life perspective “to be present in the joy and sorrow.” It could probably go without saying, but I have a lot to unlearn along with returning to my body and my breath with loving kindness.

I’ll call this a mini-spiritual awakening, rather than a mini-nervous breakdown. I’m hoping the effects continue to soak my entire being. I’m intensely grateful to my teachers and fellow yogis at the shala and all my dear friends and teachers back home in Little Rock. I’m awed by the loving embrace and encouragement that you all send my way.

“Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember the other is asleep upon your bed.” Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Joy and Palin?

exactly where you are supose to be

Day Two has commenced and funny thing, I already feel better. Placebo effect, possibly? I think the realization that I can and will do this – this renewal of sorts – allows me to feel more in control or rather has twisted my arm; changing my perspective. Though I did have a lot of caffeine yesterday, but I’m sure that has nothing to do with being energized. It does help that I’m not doing this alone. I have an accountability partner-in-health that encouraged me to find joy in yesterday – my charge: two happenings where I found joy. I found more and thought I’d share:

  • Interest and focus as returned with revelation on possible, *cough* career, vocation goals cough*: First things first, taking the pre-reqs for nursing and then crossing ever appendage that can cross that I will be accepted into nursing school and most importantly having it funded.
  • Gratitude for my job and boss – if I ever complain about this, you have my full permission to smack me with a sock – a soft fluffy one.
  • Increased energy – vitamins and caffeine, don’t forget the caffeine.
  • Reflecting on putting sweet Charlie, my youngest godkiddo, to bed the previous night.
  • Seeing my beautiful friend, Laura, and her little baby Clementine finally in their own home after a week in the NICU
  • Encouragement from fellow yogis.
  • Amanda – enough said.
  • Finally – The fact that I did not rear end the minivan in front of me with the “Pro-Life, Pro-God, Pro-Gun Palin 2012” bumper sticker. This took a lot of restraint. I take solace that it was fading and hopefully one day will be just a big blank sticker.

I’m sitting here after my morning run – it was beautiful outside. The weather was unfathomably cool with a breeze for this time of year. I love that when you pass most folks on the trail you either get a smile, a wave, a nod, or a breathless mornin’ – a small sense of community. Little Rock, you aren’t too bad. Thanks for reminding me.

 

Yoga: My Mobile Sanctuary

Lately, I’ve found myself in conversations centering around developing a sacred space. This means so many different, beautiful things and is extremely specific to the individual. We all crave a sanctuary. Well maybe that is assumption or a better phrasing could be that we all crave a place of sanity and calmness. I desperately do and for many, many years failed short of making this an intentional act of developing, creating, and re-forming this space.

My grandma was my sanctuary as a child. She was the one person I knew I could fully trust and would receive unconditional love. Even walking into her empty room as a kid would bring a sense of calm to my often chaotic childhood. I knew I was safe. I knew I could be myself. I knew that this was forever…or so it seemed until I lost my grandmother 2.5 years ago. I remember coming back to visit while I was living in Philadelphia, walking into her room and just curling up on her bed and playing with her arthritis swollen fingers. We wouldn’t talk alot, it really wasn’t needed. We had lived together since I was 3 and we knew each other fully. Sometimes the greatest expression of love is a silent presence. Though this wasn’t mobile and I struggled when I was far off in grad school or working in Egypt. I struggled to find this sanity in a world that seemed completely hopeless at times.

After grandma’s passing, I went into a pit filled with false sanctuaries that only led to temporary escapes from reality. It took about 2 years for me to wake up and remember to live fully and that involved changing my entire life: physically, mentally, and spiritually. This personally meant becoming a vegan, seeking a unbiased opinion to discuss issues that I usually avoided, seeking and staying with my faith community, oh and finding my running shoes again. (And this could not have been accomplished without the constant encouragement of my dear friend, Amanda. Who made an entire switch of lifestyle for herself and has been my inspiration to keep going.)

I believe this shift naturally led me to rediscovering yoga. Yoga has solidly become my mobile sanctuary. The challenging postures, the focus on breathing and staying in the  moment, learning the 8 limbs of yoga which has helped me to start peppering my life with what I believe is my purpose as a human being, has let me find myself again. And I actually love myself which I haven’t said…well…really ever. I use to believe that showing emotions and fully laying your barriers out there  meant that you were weak individual that wouldn’t survive a slight gust of wind. You would shatter. It is really hard to describe but yoga has allowed me to face my emotions and let them flow (sometimes they flow without my will but that is ok) and to let others see and here and know my soul. I am a fragile soul but I am also a strong soul: both exist at this moment.

Whenever I step foot on my mat, either in my apartment, office floor, or at Blue Yoga Nyla, I feel at home and that I have found a sanctuary that can move with life experiences and will meet me wherever and whatever I am. I have been blessed to have wonderful yoga instructors that graciously guide you and remain honest and transparent through their teaching.  So, thank you Stacey and Steve, for being a light!

“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” Herman Hesse

 

Early Morning Rising

Disclaimer: I am single and without children or any dependents. Therefore, this current moment in life allows me this luxury of choosing my actual wake up time and how I spend the hours after.

This week begins as any Monday should at 5:45 a.m. Yeah, I’m not joking here. I’ll admit I have always, much to the disliking of childhood slumber party friends, been an obnoxious morning person. I blame and thank my grandmother who would rise at 5:00 a.m. but I knew not to utter any words until she had finished her first coffee and cigarette of the day. My routine however does not include cigarettes and I hope yours doesn’t or won’t sometime in the future.

Anyways, I’ve decided to begin early morning rising to help me include a few healthy things in my morning routine:

Yoga practice: This may begin with staying in child pose, for say 10 minutes that could be deemed napping, but I’m hoping this movement, breathe and attention to my body and mind will help cease some of my incessant self-conscious ramblings. I pretty much stick to basic sun salutation a with a few extra forward folds and of course, my favorite, pigeon pose. (Please note: I am NOT a yoga instructor)

Devo time: For those without a Church of Christ background, this means devotional, one on one time with God, or watching WWE and eating pizza at our youth minister’s house. I have been working through a liturgical book by none other than, wait for it, you’ll never guess, Shane Claiborne and friends. The book is quite appropriately titled “The Common Prayer Book for Ordinary Radicals.” (Free online daily version: http://commonprayer.net/)

The liturgy reflects upon social justice issues through revisiting historical events as well as highlighting sometimes long forgotten saints within a variety of traditions. Then the book begins the “forced” Old Testament reading.  Yes, I say forced because readings of the OT sometimes leave me trembling and arguing with the text, myself, God, and my cat. But as someone who claims a Christian identity, I feel it is necessary to not just chalk these words up to nothing but cultural misgivings. There is beauty, truth, forgiveness, honesty and transparency within the OT and I believe the entire book to be holy, though not completely literal.  Quickly following up with OT reading, are the NT verses (background music: the singing of archangels) and concludes with a call to action and/or reflection.  This liturgy is quite challenging and does provoke action.

Breakfast and Tea: My attempt this year is to handcuff my wrists to my comfy chair before I try running off to spend 3-6 bucks at the really close, beautiful smelling Starbucks. The money adds up and it only puts my mind in the attitude of hurry. Downtown Starbucks between the hours of 6:30-9:00 a.m. is a place of 7 car pile ups, yelling, honking, and tapping of bumpers. (Now, please don’t think I’m judging you for going…I’m not…really, I’m not. I’m probably more jealous of the delicious tasting drink in your cup holder). This is one area of myself I’m attempting to correct; that is the spending of money for things that I can find in my kitchen cabinet and can learn to make.

This morning I had my Yogi “Energizing Assam Mint Revitalize “tea that supports healthy energy flow, no clue what Assam Mint is, that’s a Google term for later. I can’t say that I’m not currently daydreaming for my iced coffee with soy milk, but I am thankful for the extra money in my wallet. Along with the tea is the revisiting of eating breakfast or at least drinking it via green smoothies.

During my drinking/eating time, I’ve decided to either read one of the three books currently on my ottoman or pilfer through blogs online:  NO MAINSTREAM NEWS MEDIA ALLOWED before 10:00 a.m. This is really hard for me, because I normally would wake up and before I would run to the bathroom to pee, I would look up nbcnews.com or bbcnews.com to see if the world still existed. This is not a joke. The new websites I have found usually lean towards three things: yoga or religion/social issues or pretty pictures. Here are a few for your gander:

And finally I pack my lunch in my little reusable bag and head out the door (again trying to make my food rather than always buying it). For those of you who are concerned I occasionally bathe before heading out to my day job. I do promise that I always brush my teeth.

Welcome to my morning routine that just began this morning! Here’s to forming healthy habits.

Below is a wellness quote shared to me by one of my favorite women (Charlene):

“As early in your life as possible, choose wellness:
Celebrate the miracle of life every single day,
search within yourself for what you believe unconditionally,
develop as many deep friendships as possible,
cultivate your sense of play and creativity,
exercise regularly,
and eat the healthiest foods you can.
Live life so fully that you will have no regrets should you become seriously disabled or ill.”
–Patch Adams